Friday, November 30, 2012


Oh boys.  You just gotta love them.
The boy-turned-robot.
Those filthy pants.
Their undying love for boxes.

Got big weekend plans?  We're taking the kids to a really cool light show (you ride a zip-line through a tunnel of Christmas lights.)  Totally wicked!  Mostly we plan to take it easy and hang out at home.  

{Weekend Links}

This is a beautiful letter to the factory workers in Bangladesh and a reminder that people matter.

This company was started by a college student after she interned at the Make a Wish Foundation.  They make headbands and all proceeds go to cancer research.

This is such a cool gift.  I could see a group of friends or a mom's group working together to provide a safe birth for a woman who would otherwise not have one.

This may actually turn me into a dog person. Dogs trained to sniff out ovarian cancer?

This is disturbing, but an honest piece about the mistreatment of women in many developing countries.

This is a fabulous book list for kids and parents.

This is perfection.  Maybe I should watch Dead Poets Society again this weekend.

I'm thinking about adding some of these to my tree.  Once my fingertips recover from the hot glue.

Advent starts this weekend.  We're taking the easy route this year and using this plan with The Jesus Storybook Bible.  sigh.  I love The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Show this to your kids.  They will love you.

I hope your weekend is filled with rest and joy, friends.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fair Trade Fair::Success!

When we decided to host the Fair Trade Fair, we had no idea what to expect.  Maybe three people will come.  Who knows!  It's kind of exciting when your expectations are blown right out of the water.  I think it's safe to say we were overwhelmed by how supportive our community, friends, and church have been of this whole "shopping with purpose" idea.  Our venue was incredible.  Greta, the owner of The Frame Gallery in downtown Bryan allowed us to crash her place for two days straight.  It was fun hanging out with her all weekend.  We sold items from The Batik Boutique, Come Together Trading, Serrv, Global Mamas, and The Apparent Project.

There were moments when the place was packed.  It was borderline crazy.  Who knew people would be so excited about fairly made products.  I was hoping a shopping fight would break out, but alas - people remained mostly civil.

It was a lot of fun seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  We had the best volunteers.  They were all extremely helpful and made the weekend feel like a long party.

And then there is Lisa.  This is what it looks like to gorge yourself on fair trade products.  I think this should be her Halloween costume next year.

The best part of this story?  We sold almost $10,000 worth of fair trade products during the Fair Trade Fair.  It was indeed a celebration of creativity, art, skill, and empowerment for people around the world who are working hard to break the cycle of poverty for their families.  This is what a hand-up instead of a hand-out looks like.  It was the perfect way to start the holiday season.

Long-live the Fair Trade Fair!  And long live justice, peace, and goodwill towards all men (and women) this Christmas!

If you see something you like in these photos or the photos here or here, let me know.  I'll tell you where you can order them.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When Kid Meets Nativity

 Christmas 2008

Tis the season for nativity sets.  I lovingly unwrap Mary and baby Jesus every year.  The sheep.  The shepherds.   There they sit.  Holy.  Beautiful.  Lovely.

cue: record scratch

Unless you have kids in the house.  Especially if you have boy kids in the house.

The things poor baby Jesus has been through in this family in years past are truly embarrassing.

I have found him in couch cushions.

In the back of dump trucks.

In the driveway.

I've had to bust up tiffs between siblings when baby Jesus was brought into their super hero battles.  It's just not fair that baby Jesus wins every single time.  Baby Jesus as an action figure is unstoppable.

I have found all the hallowed nativity people with yarn tied around their necks hanging from our Christmas tree. Talk about disturbing.

I have also picked Lego men out of the nativity scene.

"This is the last time I am going to tell you to stop throwing the baby Jesus.  Last time, Mister!"

"Get that sheep out of your mouth."

"Do not hit your brother with Mary."

"Get that shepherd's foot out of your nose."

"What's in your underwear?"  Oh.  All the wise men.  Good.  Good.

This famous cast of characters have been loaded in a big rig.

This was the nativity set where all the men looked like they worked at a carnival, and I'm almost positive baby Jesus was a four year old wrapped in a swim towel.  Creepy.  Look at him.  He's in the top far right.  He has molars and as much hair as Justin Bieber.

Then there was the year that one of our kids kept breastfeeding the baby Jesus.  These are the things you don't bring up in Sunday School.

It's tempting to turn this story of a baby born to a teenage mother in a manger into something untouchable, off-limits-kind-of-holy, something we fancy up, get dressed up to tell, reading the Christmas scriptures in a strange, hushed, church voice.  How many times have we been to a candle-light service and heard this story of a first-time, young mother giving birth without a midwife or her mother (in filthy conditions) and imagined something more pristine, more perfect, more glamorous than what really went down that night in Bethlehem?  Rarely do I equate Christmas with fear, sweat, screaming, blood, feces, an umbilical chord that needs cutting, a placenta, and exhausting pain.  Yet that is exactly what the first Christmas must have been like.

When I'm tempted to make this story something other than it is, I try to remember that at any moment this holiday season my child is probably dipping Mary in the toilet or nursing the baby Jesus.

Children know how to approach the manger.  They have a way of taking all the frill, the fake, and the phony reverence out of the Christmas story. Maybe we should thank them for that.  They see Jesus as approachable, someone who would want to jump on the trampoline with them, someone who would welcome the Darth Vader Lego guy to the get-together.

The truth is, the story of a King born a baby in a barn is not something we need our best clothes on to hear, or something we need to place on the highest, unreachable shelf.  Yes this story is precious and requires reverence and awe when we really sit and contemplate all that God has done to bring peace and unconditional love to our hurting world.  But, I never want to forget that He came to our filth.  Our dysfunction.  He came to the simple.  The poor.  The poor in spirit.  He was born right into our complex, broken lives.  Emmanuel.  God with us.  God with the distracted.  The greedy.  The back-talking children.  The moms who fall asleep at night wondering if they could possibly fail more.  God with the ones with secrets.  The ones who feel left out.  The ones who think they will never measure up.  The ones with failing marriages.  The insecure.  The mean.  The ones who never seem to learn.  He came here.  He came to be God with us.  God in the middle of our homes.  The middle of our living rooms.  Right in the middle of the madness and mess...He came.  Emmanuel.  God with humans who are so utterly...hopelessly...human.  He was born to a teenage mother who probably would have chosen junk food over veggies and forgotten to take her prenatal vitamins.

If I can get over my obsessive need for all the nativity crew to stay in the same room together, I will probably learn some great lessons this Christmas season from our children and the nativity set.  I'm going to pay extra close attention because I think these little people are onto something.  Maybe kids and their unique ability to consistently "keep-it-real" relate best to what actually took place that night with Mary and Joseph.  Perhaps we're the ones perpetually jacking up this story.

Please tell me these same sort of nativity shenanigans take place at your house during the holiday season.

Related:  When Baby Jesus is a Pepperoni 

Reader Recommended Kid-Friendly Nativity Sets

Little People Nativity Set

Veggie Tale Nativity Set

Playmobil Nativity (by far the top choice of our older boys)

Sleeping Peace Nativity from Ten Thousand Villages (good compromise - fancy, but wooden)

Haba Wooden Nativity Set

Olive Wood Children's Nativity Set

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Upcycle Christmas

Last year I made all new ornaments for our tree - and then left them in Haiti.  We came home, started unloading our belongings out of the container that had housed them for two years, and I went a little crazy.  Fresh home from a third world country will make a person hate all their belongings.  I had an epic garage sale a few weeks later.  I remember looking at our Christmas stuff and thinking, "Why? Why did I keep these things?  Get it all away from me - now."  A few weeks ago it dawned on me that it's almost Christmas - and once again, we don't have any ornaments.  The idea of an upcycled or reusable Christmas sounded like a fun idea (minus the part where I actually had to physically make stuff).  I broke out the glue gun and got busy burning the flesh right off my hands.  And arms.  And shin.

I loved our wonky stick ornaments last year.  I got the idea from Shannan over at Flower Patch Farmgirl.  I dig her for so many reasons.  The boys were happy to help me paint.

Aren't they cute?  You should seriously check out Shannan's tree.  It's double dreamy.
I also stole her idea for my garland.  I think she uses newspaper - I cut up an old book.  Gasp!  It was a book about politics, so it's funny to see names like McCain, Clinton, Obama, and Romney circling our tree.

Kirby found these adorable bird ornaments online at  Stephanie Lynn's website
They were simple to reproduce.

Rosette with real chicken feathers 

Blue and white striped fabric wrapped around an ugly Santa Claus ornament?  Yes.  Please.

Is "put a nest on it" the new "put a bird on it?"  I hope so.

I'm loving these nests in our tree.  They probably have diseases, but whatev.

My sister-in-law found this candelabra (that word has bra in it, hee!) at a resale shop last year.  Hello Advent candle holder.  

For the mantle, I wanted something simple.  I swiped my garage-sale scale and the two white bowls from the kitchen.  The middle container is a utensil holder.  Don't tell anyone.  The bird and white bird house thing, were already on the mantle.  The plants - mini fir trees and rosemary.  I love the idea of planting them in the ground after Christmas.  And - the living room smells like Rosemary.  It makes me want potatoes.

The books in the fireplace?  This grouping is mostly made up of my enormo college literature books.  Aaron has loved - I mean loved - moving those books from house to house over the years.  He hasn't complained about that at all.  Not at all.

I made the stockings two summers ago from burlap bags.  These stockings feel extra special because I made them while staying at our family's farm.  When I look at them, I can't help but remember my nieces and boys all up in my business, asking me 100 questions.  They all decided to learn to sew pillows that summer.  I loved finishing up a stocking and running barefoot across the yard to show my sister-in-law the finished product.  Our boys will never forget those sweet times with their cousins.

I bought the burlap bags at a garage sale.  The lady sold me about 20 huge, REAL burlap coffee sacks for $1 TOTAL.  I could not believe it.  I handed her a dollar and have never run faster down a driveway.

I threw the extra bags under the tree as the tree skirt.  It's actually a tree-wad, but who really cares, right?

It's very simple, but looks so pretty at night.  Our boys love being outside, so bringing pieces of the outside in makes this tree feel extra special to them. Besides, when Christmas gets flashy, it starts making very little sense to me.

Having this extra week after Thanksgiving feels so weird.  Do you like the extra week or do you wish December would hurry and get here?

Whether you put your tree up early or wait until a week before Christmas - I hope you have a sweet time decorating it with the ones you love most.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Recap

We took the obligatory pre-gravy Thanksgiving photos.  You're welcome.  You don't want to see the post-gravy ones where we're all mouth-breathing on the couch with gravy babies in our abdomens.  

Hudson refuses to act like a phony in photos.  No way.  He insists on being 100% true to himself.

There was football throwing, because duh - we're Americans.

Then we fed the ducks in my dad's neighborhood 14 loaves of bread.  If we're going to feel like gluttonous lards, so are the ducks by golly.  It's only right.  And we probably ate their cousin, so feeding them old bread is the least we can do.

Photo with the Dadster.  Hudson.  Why?

Black Friday found us in Kemah at the boardwalk riding unlimited rides that are likely to cause vomiting.

My babies are up there.  Someone hold me.

Heavenly day.  Why do people ride rides that go round and round?

It was a fantastic Thanksgiving.  If you're a Texan, the Kemah boardwalk is adorable and oh-so-fun.  I hope your Thanksgiving was fabulous and you were so full of love and pecan pie you mouth-breathed at least once.